By Joe Torosian
April 18, 2013 • 206 views
“It’s not black history, it’s not African American history, it’s American history.”
Did I like the movie “42″?
Is it a great movie?
No…but it was really good.
We have eight movies for a fictional teenage wizard. We have four/five (lost count) Twilight/Breaking Wind movies about vampires and werewolves.
We have a huge trilogy about a powerful ring…We have a prequel trilogy in the works about the same ring.
We have six movies about what happened a long time ago in a galaxy far far away.
Yet we only have one movie about Jackie Robinson?
Didn’t work for me. How can you take Jackie Robinson and squeeze him into 128 minutes?
What Robinson accomplished before joining the Dodger organization is a movie. Breaking the barriers in 1947 and 1948 is a movie. The years 1949 through 1955 covering when he got to fight back and the 1955 World Series is a movie. What he did after, until his death is a movie.
This is why “42″ is a good movie but not a great one. You’d like to think someone in Hollywood would have ponied up the dough to back at least a trilogy.
Do schools teach about Jackie Robinson? My daughter did a report on him in grade school. Do young people know about him? If they don’t then this movie serves a great purpose.
All I saw though was the filming of all the stories I heard growing up a Dodger fan, reading books, and seeing Ken Burns documentary on the game.
I knew about the gas station incident, I knew about Leo Durocher hammering the team about the petition they signed. Knew the Eddie Stanky story. Knew about Pee Wee Reese affirming publicly. I just wanted to see something more.
The untold story of Jackie Robinson, hidden behind the movie and great images of him with his wife, is that this guy went through hell and died young. I think what dropped this movie from great to good was the over blown, hyped, closing scene. No spoilers here.
Robinson paid a huge price in his health, it took a toll on his children, its heartbreaking because in the pantheon of American heroes he’s right there…and at the end of his career he was sold to the Giants.
They flirted with back up catcher Bobby Bragan’s story but never went the distance. They never shared how he went on to become one of Robinson’s best friends on the Dodgers and served as an honorary pall bearer at Robinson’s funeral.
They needed three movies to really tell this story.
They needed three because while Bragan’s life changing is a great story, Branch Rickey’s is off the charts.
Which brings up another problem. “42″ is the story of Jackie Robinson but in 128 minutes of film he shares most of the spotlight with Branch Rickey.
I don’t know if it was Ebert, Siskell, Roper, some film reviewer shared that an inherent flaw in all films dealing with race the struggle to overcome racism and segregation is the sympathetic white character generally becomes the story.
In “Cry Freedom” the story of Steven Biko fighting apartheid in South Africa, the story drifts back to the white crusading reporter played by Kevin Kline. In “Glory” the story of 54th Massachusetts, all black, regiment becomes the story of its white commander played by Matthew Broderick. They even used “To Kill a Mockingbird” as an example
In “42″ I felt like I was seeing Harrison Ford playing Branch Rickey…Not a bad thing, but I wanted to see more of Robinson.
This is why we needed three movies.
With three movies they could have done a whole stretch on “The Boys of Summer” and chronicled all the pain that Brooklyn baseball team went through before finally beating the Yankees in 1955. Now that would be a great movie.
Contact joe at Joe@midvalleysports.com